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Failure to protect trees is breaking the law

26 May 2006 - Whangarei

Council failure to protect trees is breaking the law

Whangarei District Council is not fulfilling its legal obligations to protect significant native trees on private land, Forest & Bird says.

Forest & Bird Northern Branch Secretary Beverly Woods says Forest & Bird is extremely concerned at the destruction of mature indigenous trees and habitats in the district, and the complete lack of regulation by the council to protect them.

Beverly Woods says the district is losing indigenous trees that are nationally rare, that support habitat of threatened species including kiwi, and that are necessary to maintain groundwater and soil stability.

The district is also losing internationally-recognised freshwater wetlands, dunelands, estuarine systems and volcanic broadleaf forests, she says.

"Landowners cannot be blamed for destruction of international-status areas of indigenous flora and fauna if they do not know of its status. Even if they are aware they cannot be brought to account because there are no rules."

Among the worst instances was the felling of a 200-year-old pohutukawa at Urquhart's Bay in April, and the felling of another pohutukawa, believed to be at least 100 years old, at Bream Bay in March to improve the view from an existing house.

Such cases would only increase under growing pressure of coastal development and the total lack of rules on protection of native trees, Beverly Woods says.

Beverly Woods says that by failing to protect indigenous trees, the council is not fulfilling its legal obligations under the Resource Management Act, the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and the Reserves Act.

Forest & Bird will make a submission to the council's Long-Term Council Community Plan on 29th May asking that it:

* Make immediate variations to the District Plan to protect indigenous trees on private land.

- Make immediate changes to the District Plan to protect high level significant natural areas by adopting the Protected Natural Areas Programme.

* Recognise the Resource Management Act amendment on climate change and include it in rules on protection of trees and natural areas to give regard to climate change effects.

ENDS

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